Have you ever looked at a game on steam and thought to yourself, "who the hell would ever buy that?" Accurate or not, whether you're the audience or not, it's hard to not have the thought every now and then.
I often think about the developers on the other end of those titles. Many of them passionate and dedicated, hopeful for the day when the world gets to share in their vision. My heart drops at the thought of how many of them dove in with that fervor only to find no fans waiting on the other side of the struggle.
A great idea and a lot of passion often aren't enough. It's not impossible that they lead to success on their own, but without a strong game plan, the risk of failure is huge. Before getting started on a project, I think it's critical that I be confident in its potential. I need to know how long it will take to make, what resources it will need, what kind of audience I intend to appeal to, how I'm going to try to sell it, and many other less-than-glamorous details.
This is the process I want to go through before choosing my project:
- Decide on the goals of my project as a whole.
- Brainstorm more ideas than I need.
- Create a list of questions I will use to test the strength of my ideas.
- Use those questions to filter my ideas down to a top 3.
- Research similar games to see what I'm up against, and what to avoid.
- Choose the single idea I'm going to dedicate myself to.
- Build a prototype of a section of core gameplay.
- If solid, start the project. If not, fall back to one of the other ideas.
Projects rarely end up looking anything like what was planned at the start, but if I know what my goals are, what my core gameplay is, and what risks to avoid, then I can keep some of those important aspects constant even as the game evolves.
So this particular blog is dedicated to Step 1: deciding on the goals I want to achieve with this, my first project outside of a studio.
This is what I'm thinking so far:
- Stick to a small team size.
- Either just me plus targeted contracting, or 2-3 people maximum.
- If I invite anyone in, I need to be extremely confident in them.
- I want to force myself to get outside of my comfort zone and learn parts of game development I've been able to stay clear of so far.
- I want to prove my ability to see through something complex on my own, so that I can go in guilt and worry free if I want to collaborate in the future. I like to operate confidently in team settings, and this is how I establish that for myself.
- I want to retain control and be agile enough to dramatically change the project if needed.
- Stick to a shortish development cycle.
- Ideally, I'd like to aim at a 6 month development cycle or shorter.
- During this time, I'll also be learning new tools, so I need to factor in ramp-up.
- This will demand that I keep the designs very scoped, and that I be cautious of committing to anything that will require large amounts of content.
- The lack of supporting teammates will make this harder, as I'll have to fill more roles, but it will also mean less communication/coordination issues.
- Aim for moderate commercial success.
- I'm making this game to actually ship. It will need to be finished and clean.
- I want to force learning in some of those parts of the process outside of the game creation itself. Publishing. Marketing.
- I want to make back the money I lose for the time I spend making it, because I'd love to open up the option of working on more of my own games in the future.
- Prove to an audience that I'm worth paying attention to.
- I've made notable things as part of a larger team. I've put my ideas out there to be judged by others. Now I want to put together something finished that shows who I am as a designer.
- This will have an impact on project choice, as it means that project really should represent some of my design ideals in a strong recognizable way.
- Teach myself tools that can be used on future projects.
- Currently, I'm an expert at an internal tool that will be useless to me in all other game development.
- As part of this project, I want to teach myself to use more versatile tools that will be useful in the future for a variety of projects.
- I also want to familiarize myself with some tools outside of my usual design space in the process. Art, animation, sound, coding - whatever feels strongly relevant.
- I am NOT going to try to do everything manually. A short development cycle means I need to intelligently take advantage of areas where I don't have to start from scratch.
- Figure out a contracting pipeline that I can tap into in the future.
- While I'm aware of asset stores and sites where I can seek out contractors, I've never used either to any meaningful degree. During this project, I want to explore those options and learn where and how those resources prove effective.
- Explore whether there are people out there that I'd be excited to collaborate with.
- I love working with other humans. I also have very high standards in certain areas for things that are "mine." I need to figure out how comfortably those 2 things mix with smaller projects.
- I want to get a lot more involved in indie dev communities. I should look out for opportunities to start doing so more as part of this project.
That feels like a pretty good starting point. These project goals are aimed at helping me figure out what types of game ideas I should be focused on, particularly in scope and duration, but there's still another major step of the process where I'll dive in much deeper on what type and feel of game I really want to make.
That's getting a bit ahead though. The next step is organizing a good brainstorm of what excites me the most. High-level brainstorms shouldn't be done with detailed restrictions in mind, because that tends to limit creativity, but broad goals like these can help point the right general direction, so I should be in a good place to start.
[My thoughts and opinions are my own. They are not those of Blizzard Entertainment, and they do not necessarily represent Blizzard design philosophies.]